Asbestos in Your Home: How To Identify, Test and Remove
If your home was built before 1980, it may have asbestos in it. But don’t panic, this is quite common and you’re likely safe.
Homebuilders in the past used asbestos to insulate buildings and homes against cold weather, noise, and fireproofing and asbestos was a common ingredient in manufactured products like floor and ceiling tiles. Asbestos was a go-to choice because it was an affordable and effective material. And it was commonly used because homebuilders didn’t know the health risks.
If you see asbestos in your home, don’t panic. You’ve already been living with it and it isn’t the actual material itself you have to worry about. It is the fibers that float into the air and get inhaled. This occurs when you’re replacing old pipes, taking out floor or ceiling tiles, and even removing a popcorn ceiling.
There are three types of asbestos that you’ll find in residential or commercial property: crocidolite (blue), amosite (brown), and chrysotile (white). For all of them, their fibers are so tiny (and sometimes microscopic), that they can be airborne for days vs. just a couple minutes. It is because of their size that they are easily inhaled into your lungs.
Crocidolite asbestos is the most hazardous type of asbestos due to its extremely fine and sharp fibers. It is found on older roofs, ceilings, walls and floors as well as insulation for pipes, ducts and appliances.
Amosite is the 2nd most commonly-used asbestos in the United States. Light brown in color, this asbestos poses the greatest risk of cancer, because the small size of the fibers make them easy to inhale also. It has a high level of heat resistance, so amosite asbestos was commonly used in products like insulation and ceiling tiles.
Chrysotile, known as white asbestos, is the most commonly used asbestos and can be found in roofs, ceilings, walls, and floors. Before asbestos was regulated in the US, it was popular due to its versatility and heat-resistant properties and was often used for insulation for pipes, ducts, and appliances.
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to learn where to look within your home to see if you have asbestos.
Where Asbestos Is Found In Homes
Asbestos is normally found in homes built before 1980 in:
- Heating and piping
- Floor coverings
- Exterior roofing, shingles, and siding
- Popcorn Ceilings
- Electrical equipment
Check to see if there are any records or receipts for when these features were built, updated, or renovated in your home. They may be in the documents you received when you purchased your house if you are a new owner.
If you think you’ve found asbestos in your home, the next step is to test the item(s) and make sure.
Testing For Asbestos In Your Home
In general, an item containing asbestos is considered safe when it is in good condition, and there are no signs of damage. However, you’ll want to look for signs of wear or damage like tears, abrasions, or water damage, because damaged material can release asbestos fibers.
It is always a good idea to call a professional in, because if done incorrectly, sampling for asbestos can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone.
Asbestos tests cost:
- $50-$180 for mail-in or off-site testing
- $250-$750 for onsite testing
- $300-$1,200 for an air monitor test
After the test, you will get a report back letting you know if you have asbestos and your next steps.
What to Do If You Have Asbestos In Your Home
You have options if you find that you have asbestos in your home: repair the area, remove the asbestos, or sell your home.
Asbestos repair involves either sealing or covering the asbestos material:
- Sealing (encapsulation) treats the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so that the fibers are not released.
- Covering (enclosure) places something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent release of fibers.
Repairing asbestos is usually cheaper than removing it, but if you don’t like the thought of living in a house with asbestos, removing it will give you peace-of-mind.
If you’re remodeling or making major changes that will disturb asbestos-containing material, removal may be required. Removal may also be needed for asbestos-containing material that is damaged extensively and cannot be repaired.
Asbestos removal can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $20,000+ depending on the size of removal, location of where the asbestos is located and where you live, etc…
Removal should only be done by a trained and accredited asbestos professional, because improper removal can increase your family’s exposure to asbestos. And several states and cities require that people who inspect, repair or remove asbestos-containing materials to be trained and accredited.
Removing asbestos can be costly, because homeowner’s policies usually have an exclusion for asbestos. And managing (or removing) the asbestos yourself can be more work, time, and money than you want to spend. If this is the case, you may want to sell your home.
While you are required to disclose the presence of asbestos when selling, you aren’t legally obligated to fix it. You can:
- Disclose the asbestos and negotiate a lower price that will cover the costs of removal or repair.
- Instead of dealing with repairs and open houses, you can sell your home as-is to investors or a we buy houses company. You’ll answer a few questions about your home and its condition, and you’ll have a cash offer within 48 hours. If you accept the offer, you can close in as few as 10 days.
Whether you’ve just bought your first home or have lived in it for a decade, finding out it has asbestos can be a bit jarring. But it doesn’t have to be now that you know what to look for and how to protect your family from asbestos.
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